March 26 - April 1
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Last week I highlighted the unrecognized heroism of retired Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Mark Hall. His story and hundreds like his provided motivation to add sections in the USBP Honorary Awards policy (see Sections 4.14 and 5.3) that enabled their recognition for their past actions. Unfortunately, many worthy employees, and former employees still have not received recognition from the Patrol.
Today, I'm going to write about the Remember the Alamo story that I used to inspire those in leadership positions to support recognizing past actions. The incident was in last week's blog, it was Ruben Mendoza's Newton-Azrak Award action anniversary from 2013.
Let me tell you that action and how it helped hundred's of agents receive long overdue recognition...
As the midnight shift commenced, Border Patrol Agents Cary Scott and Pedro “Pete” Saldivar, engaged in roving patrol near Hebbronville, Texas, encountered what appeared to be a stranded motorist. Agent Scott approached the driver while Agent Saldivar conducted a vehicle registration check.
Simultaneously, Agent Ruben Mendoza arrived at the scene, strategically positioning his marked SUV in front of the suspect's sedan. The agents had previously planned to meet at this crossroad, but the situation rapidly escalated.
While Agent Scott conversed with the driver near the car's rear quarter panel, Dispatch KAK-940 crackled with the alarming news: the vehicle was reported stolen.
In a swift reaction, the driver lunged into the backseat, presumably reaching for a weapon. Agent Scott instinctively followed, grappling with the suspect in a confined and precarious position. Agent Saldivar rushed to aid, attempting to extract both men from the vehicle. Agent Mendoza, hindered by space, stood by to assist as soon as the suspect was pulled out.
Trapped on the floorboard, Agent Scott struggled fiercely, soon realizing the suspect was reaching for an item in a backpack. He alerted his partners of the imminent danger.
Then, terror struck – Agent Scott glimpsed a pistol in the suspect's grip. The situation intensified as Agent Scott shouted "gun!" In a chaotic sequence, Agent Saldivar yanked both men out by their pant legs as the suspect fired twice, critically injuring Agent Saldivar. Agent Mendoza, drawing his weapon, prepared for a precise engagement.
Agent Saldivar's severe leg wound necessitated emergency airlift and a long road to recovery, from which he thankfully emerged fully healed.
Despite being down, Agent Scott valiantly continued the struggle on his knees, preventing the assailant from firing accurately. His tenacious fight, however, couldn't restrain the shooter indefinitely.
In a tense and dark roadside showdown, Agent Mendoza, faced with extraordinary pressure, fired eight shots, each hitting the suspect, decisively ending the altercation.
Recognition and Controversy
In light of their heroic deeds, the Laredo Sector nominated Agents Ruben, Pete, and Cary for the prestigious Newton-Azrak Award, the Patrol's highest accolade. Historically, this award recognized teams or groups, but by 2018, it shifted to honoring individual actions only.
The nomination, however, hit a snag in Washington DC. The refusal, originating ambiguously from USBP Workforce Management or CBP HRM, cited a policy against recognizing more than two agents in a single action, contradicting established precedents.
Confronted with this dilemma, Laredo Sector honored Agent Ruben with the Newton-Azrak Award for neutralizing the threat. Agent Saldivar, wounded in the line of duty, received the Commissioner’s Meritorious Service Award for Valor and the USBP Purple Cross. Regrettably, Agent Scott's gallantry went unrecognized.
A Mission for Recognition
In 2017, I assumed the role of the Patrol’s historian and awards coordinator, driven by a passion to ensure that our workforce's outstanding deeds receive the recognition they deserve.
Soon after, inquiries about Agent Scott's overlooked valor reached my desk. Delving into the case, I uncovered the true extent of his heroism, corroborated by the Texas DPS report which credited him with saving lives through his unyielding resistance.
This revelation propelled a campaign across the USBP Senior Executive ranks and up to the Commissioner, emphasizing the critical importance of employee recognition and the glaring oversight in Agent Scott's case.
Finally, justice was served. Years after his courageous act, Agent Scott was awarded the USBP Commendation Medal with a “V” device, the Patrol’s second-highest honor for heroism. This long-awaited acknowledgment not only honored his exceptional bravery but also set a precedent for honoring many more agents with meritorious past actions, with hundreds still awaiting their due recognition.
In commemorating Agent Scott's valor, we recommit to ensuring every act of courage and sacrifice within our ranks is duly honored. The journey continues.
Now to the history...
This week stars in 1907 with 19 people coming to Jeff Milton's rescue after he had accidentally shot someone in the foot. We have a 1926 document that provides the earliest known evidence of the Patrol being authorized to enforce laws other than immigration laws. Also in 1926, the single most influential document in USBP history came into effect, General Order 61. Of course, there's much more!
We celebrate two Newton-Azrak Award recipients on the anniversaries of their actions.
We remember four of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Enjoy and have a fantastic week!
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Robert S. Herrera
Border Patrol Agent
On March 29, 1994, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Robert S. Herrera responded to an intrusion device that had indicated activity near the Sanchez Canal, west of San Luis, Arizona. Upon Arrival, Agent Herrera observed a subject who appeared to be a male juvenile swimming to the east bank of the canal. While watching the subject swim to the other side, BPA Herrera’s attention was caught by a disturbance in the water just to the south of where the first subject was swimming.
Looking to the south, Agent Herrera saw a person’s head break the surface of the water and then go back under. Continuing to watch, Agent Herrera saw the person pop up again, flail the water, and gasp for air before disappearing beneath the surface again.
By the time the individual went under for the third time, Agent Herrera was on the bank of the canal, dropping his leather as he jumped into the water. In the middle of the canal, Agent Herrera was able to grab and eight-year-old child and bring him safely back to shore where BPA Matthew Sutton pulled him up onto dry land.
Robert Herrera’s actions on the morning of March 29, 1994, were above and beyond what is normally expected of an agent. He imperiled his own safety by leaping into a polluted canal to save the life of a child.
William T. Veal
Chief Patrol Agent
San Diego Sector
On the night of April 1, 1999, eastern San Diego County experienced very low temperatures and unexpected snow during a fierce overnight storm, which left many illegal entrant aliens stranded and lost in the rugged mountainous terrain of the area. Many of these people were in great peril of imminent death and at least seven others had already succumbed.
After ensuring that Sector resources were mobilized to cope with this emergency, Chief Patrol Agent William T. Veal, in the early morning hours of April 2, responded by flying into service the Border Patrol’s heavy lift UH-1 helicopter. Joined by the Patrol Agent in Charge of Air Operations, John D. Pool and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Harold R. Beasley, he flew into very hazardous weather conditions to effect the rescue of stranded and hypothermic aliens. During this time, Chief Veal rescued eight aliens who were hypothermic and in imminent danger of death. The attending physician stated to rescue personnel that one of these individuals would have died had he not received medical attention within the hour. Additionally, by flying through treacherous terrain in deteriorating weather conditions, while fighting low ceilings, clouds, and fog, Chief Veal inserted Border Patrol and San Diego County Search and Rescue teams into accessible areas to search for stranded aliens. This included making landings in the same rugged terrain, at times with only one tip of a skid touching the ground.
With no regard for his personal safety, Chief Veal continued search and rescue activities until he was assured that no additional aliens were in peril. He flew a total of 6.9 hours with the only breaks being three brief refueling stops.
As of March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 154* fallen.
The names that appear below hold a place of honor. They have made the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to fulfill the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
The facts regarding each officer are presented without major editing of the "language of the day" found in the reports detailing the circumstances of each event. This is done to provide the reader an association with historical timeframes.
Employees who died in the line of duty due to being exposed to deadly illnesses will not have the cause of death listed.
I will note that Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax is not recognized as officially fallen by Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. The Border Patrol Foundation and the Border Patrol Museum also fail to recognize him. He is remembered by all except organizations containing "Border Patrol" in their title. He is remembered by the:
The U.S. Border Patrol, the Border Patrol Foundation, and the Border Patrol Museum should fix their oversight.
HonorFirst.com remembers and lists Agent Gigax among the fallen.
Lee L. Bounds
Date of Birth: November 24, 1936
Entered on Duty: June 22, 1970
Title: Patrol Agent
End of Watch: March 29, 1974
Border Patrol Agent Lee L. Bounds of the Lordsburg Station, El Paso Sector, was killed in a jeep accident on March 29, 1974. He was traveling alone on a road between Animas and Rodeo, New Mexico, southwest of Lordsburg, and ran the jeep off the right shoulder of the road. He lost control when he attempted to steer the vehicle back onto the road and the jeep overturned. Bounds was thrown from the vehicle, which rolled over him before stopping in an upright position, Mr. Bounds’ head was crushed. The jeep, which was equipped with seat belts and roll bar, was damaged extensively.
Luis A. Santiago
Date of Birth: November 9, 1964
Entered on Duty: June 6, 1994
Title: Border Patrol Agent (Trainee)
End of Watch: March 28, 1995
At approximately 11:45 p.m., Agent Santiago was working in a canyon near Lower Otay Reservoir when he and other agents saw a group of about 20 illegal aliens. The agents identified themselves as Border Patrol and ordered the aliens to stop. The group scattered and the agents followed. Agent Santiago gave chase along the rim of the canyon, taking a narrow trail that leads to the edge of a cliff. He lost his footing on loose rock and slippery grass and fell approximately 120 feet to his death.
On June 6, 1994, Luis Santiago joined the U.S. Border Patrol as a BPA (Trainee) at the San Diego Sector/Brown Field Station in San Diego, California. After entering on duty, he was sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. On October 18, 1994, he graduated from the 267th Session and returned to San Diego. Agent Santiago was one week short of taking his ten-month examination.
Stephen M. Sullivan
Date of Birth: July 6, 1971
Entered on Duty: August 4, 1996
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: March 27, 1999
On Saturday, March 27, 1999, Border Patrol Agent Stephen M. Sullivan was transporting a group of aliens on the Otay Truck Trail when his vehicle overturned and rolled down an embankment. Three of the aliens, who had been thrown from the vehicle, climbed up out of the embankment and approached another Border Patrol Agent, stating that others were still inside the vehicle and had been injured. Four people, including Agent Sullivan, were killed in the accident.
Agent Sullivan began his career with the INS as an Adjudications Officer in Los Angeles. He was hired by the Border Patrol in September 1997. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the El Cajon Station of the San Diego Sector.
Jarod C. Dittman
Date of Birth: September 9, 1979
Entered on Duty: March 5, 2007
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: March 30, 2008
Border Patrol Agent Jarod C. Dittman was killed in a single-vehicle accident near Jamul, California in the early morning hours of March 30, 2008.
Agent Dittman was driving from the Brown Field Border Patrol Station to his assigned patrol area, when his service vehicle rolled over, ejecting Agent Dittman from the vehicle. Another Border Patrol agent drove up on the scene and immediately called for emergency assistance. Due to the heavy fog, an airlift helicopter could not respond. Agent Dittman was pronounced dead while enroute to the hospital.
Agent Dittman entered on duty with the U.S. Border Patrol on March 5, 2007, as a member of the 660th session of the Border Patrol Academy. He was assigned to the Brown Field Station immediately after graduation from the Academy. Prior to joining the Border Patrol, Agent Dittman served in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Supervisory Border Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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